The documentary has a few important parts. First, is the idea that men are at risk because masculinity is a social construction that says violence, anger and toughness are the only okay emotions or reactions for males. When violence occurs in society, the media and society ignore the masculine element. They just assume that it is natural.
However, the connection between masculinity and violence has only been around since society changed from an agricultural patriarchy to a modern more egalitarian society. As our society changed to be more urban and more equal, men have been taught to fear women and fear the changes. These changes helped to popularize the Western movies and shows that have only been around the last 75 years or so.
Along with the change of society came changes in acceptance of women as equal and changes in gay rights. Fear of the changes in society is filtered throughout society via politics and media. Guns are a symptom of the fear of the changes. There is a siege mentality that promotes rugged individualism and gun ownership as a way of fighting back both literally and figuratively. Guys today are taught that violence is the only way to be really considered a man and to hold onto their manhood.
This includes denigrating anything that is female or gay. This creates a dangerous anti-woman attitude.
He ends with the idea that we can all make little changes in how we talk and act and think. We can support movies that show honest portrayals of guys and movies that help broaden the box that guys fit into.
Below are some of the sources that are referred to in the movie.
Here is Katz speaking at a TED conference:
Real Boys; Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood, book by William Pollock. Pollock documents how at a very early age boys are taught to accept traditional male gender traits of being tough and repressing their emotions.
Excerpt available here.
Based on William Pollack's groundbreaking research at Harvard Medical School over two decades, Real Boys explores why many boys are sad, lonely, and confused although they may appear tough, cheerful, and confident. Pollack challenges conventional expectations about manhood and masculinity that encourage parents to treat boys as little men, raising them through a toughening process that drives their true emotions underground. Only when we understand what boys are really like, says Pollack, can we help them develop more self-confidence and the emotional savvy they need to deal with issues such as depression, love and sexuality, drugs and alcohol, divorce, and violence.
Guyland; The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men, book by Michael Kimmel. Kimmel's research focuses on kids slightly older than those in Pollack's research. Here is a review from the NY Times.
In mapping the troubling social world where men are now made, Kimmel offers a view into the minds and times of America's sons, brothers, and boyfriends, and he works toward redefining what it means to be a man today—and tomorrow. Only by understanding this world and this life stage can we enable young men to chart their own paths, stay true to themselves, and emerge safely from Guyland as responsible and fully formed male adults. Here is a post from Kimmel in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre.
Dude You're A Fag, book by sociologist C.J. Pascoe. From the amazon summary, "High school and the difficult terrain of sexuality and gender identity are brilliantly explored in this smart, incisive ethnography. Based on eighteen months of fieldwork in a racially diverse working-class high school, Dude, You're a Fag sheds new light on masculinity both as a field of meaning and as a set of social practices. C. J. Pascoe's unorthodox approach analyzes masculinity as not only a gendered process but also a sexual one. She demonstrates how the "specter of the fag" becomes a disciplinary mechanism for regulating heterosexual as well as homosexual boys and how the "fag discourse" is as much tied to gender as it is to sexuality." Here is a video of the authors discussing their work.
Cool Pose; The Dilemmas of Black Manhood, book by Richard Majors and Janet Mancini Billson. Here is a review from the NY Times;
While the cool pose is often misread by teachers, principals and police officers as an attitude of defiance, psychologists who have studied it say it is a way for black youths to maintain a sense of integrity and suppress rage at being blocked from usual routes to esteem and success.
Leading Men; Presidential Campaigns and the Politics of Manhood, book by Jackson Katz.
In Leading Men, Jackson Katz puts forth the original and highly provocative thesis that presidential campaigns have become the center stage of an ongoing national debate about manhood, a kind of quadrennial referendum on what type of man—or one day, woman—embodies not only our ideological beliefs, but our very identity as a nation. Of course this debate has enormous implications for women—both as potential candidates for the presidency and as citizens.
Violence; Reflections on a National Epidemic, book by James Gilligan. Drawing on firsthand experience as a prison psychiatrist, his own family history, and literature, Gilligan unveils the motives of men who commit horrifying crimes, men who will not only kill others but destroy themselves rather than suffer a loss of self-respect. With devastating clarity, Gilligan traces the role that shame plays in the etiology of murder and explains why our present penal system only exacerbates it. Brilliantly argued, harrowing in its portraits of the walking dead, Violence should be read by anyone concerned with this national epidemic and its widespread consequences.
Excerpt from the NY Times;
According to the myth of the frontier, says Mr. Slotkin, "the conquest of the wilderness and the subjugation or displacement of the Native Americans who originally inhabited it have been the means to our achievement of a national identity, a democratic polity, an ever-expanding economy and a phenomenally dynamic and 'progressive' civilization." Central to this myth was the belief that "violence is an essential and necessary part of the process through which American society was established and through which its democratic values are defended and enforced."I Don't Want To Talk About It; Twenty years of experience treating men and their families has convinced psychotherapist Terrence Real that depression is a silent epidemic in men—that men hide their condition from family, friends, and themselves to avoid the stigma of depression’s “un-manliness.” Problems that we think of as typically male—difficulty with intimacy, workaholism, alcoholism, abusive behavior, and rage—are really attempts to escape depression. And these escape attempts only hurt the people men love and pass their condition on to their children.
Here is Katz's conclusion from the movie:
Too often, we define masculine strength by who can blow away the most people, who can flex the most muscle, who can impose their will and inflict the most damage. But this cheapens the real definition of strength and toughness.
We respect the toughness of firefighters who rush into burning buildings when others are rushing out, police officers and other first responders who put their lives on the line, and our men and women in the armed services who show courage under fire – not because they’re out to prove something, but because they steer themselves in the face of danger and face down their fears in service to others.
For the same reason, we should respect the toughness and strength of men who challenge the myth that being a real man requires putting up a false front, disrespecting others, and engaging in violent and self-destructive behavior.
We should respect all the men out there who aren’t threatened by women’s equality, who have the confidence to listen to women, learn from them, and grow in the process, who refuse to engage in homophobic abuse and bullying to prove they’re one of the guys, who show empathy for others rather than joining in or remaining silent when other guys prop themselves up at the expense of others, and who meet change and difference with a willingness to make change and a difference themselves.
Strength is about adapting to change, not about retreating from it and lashing back with violence out of fear. And it’s high time we had a definition of manhood capable of meeting that challenge.
Here is a poster from Katz that is printable with Ten Things Guys Can Do To Prevent Violence;
ten things men can do to prevent gender violence
- Approach gender violence as a MEN'S issue involving men of all ages and socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds. View men not only as perpetrators or possible offenders, but as empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers
- If a brother, friend, classmate, or teammate is abusing his female partner -- or is disrespectful or abusive to girls and women in general -- don't look the other way. If you feel comfortable doing so, try to talk to him about it. Urge him to seek help. Or if you don't know what to do, consult a friend, a parent, a professor, or a counselor. DON'T REMAIN SILENT.
- Have the courage to look inward. Question your own attitudes. Don't be defensive when something you do or say ends up hurting someone else. Try hard to understand how your own attitudes and actions might inadvertently perpetuate sexism and violence, and work toward changing them.
- If you suspect that a woman close to you is being abused or has been sexually assaulted, gently ask if you can help.
- If you are emotionally, psychologically, physically, or sexually abusive to women, or have been in the past, seek professional help NOW.
- Be an ally to women who are working to end all forms of gender violence. Support the work of campus-based women's centers. Attend "Take Back the Night" rallies and other public events. Raise money for community-based rape crisis centers and battered women's shelters. If you belong to a team or fraternity, or another student group, organize a fundraiser.
- Recognize and speak out against homophobia and gay-bashing. Discrimination and violence against lesbians and gays are wrong in and of themselves. This abuse also has direct links to sexism (eg. the sexual orientation of men who speak out against sexism is often questioned, a conscious or unconscious strategy intended to silence them. This is a key reason few men do so).
- Attend programs, take courses, watch films, and read articles and books about multicultural masculinities, gender inequality, and the root causes of gender violence. Educate yourself and others about how larger social forces affect the conflicts between individual men and women.
- Don't fund sexism. Refuse to purchase any magazine, rent any video, subscribe to any Web site, or buy any music that portrays girls or women in a sexually degrading or abusive manner. Protest sexism in the media.
- Mentor and teach young boys about how to be men in ways that don't involve degrading or abusing girls and women. Volunteer to work with gender violence prevention programs, including anti-sexist men's programs. Lead by example